Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 9: Contra-Mestra Cristina

3 03 2008

Like with Mestra Suelly, I unfortunately wasn’t able to find very much biographical information on Contra-Mestra Cristina (unlike a lot of mestres or some regional mestras, angola mestras don’t seem very good at tooting their own horns ūüėõ ), but I will make up for it with something extra at the end!¬†

Contra-mestra Cristina of Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de PastinhaCristina Nascimento, or Contra-Mestra Cristina, first encountered capoeira in an unusual way: through a type of therapy she was undergoing called “Somatherapy”, part of which involved temporarily joining a capoeira angola class.¬† Soon enough, however, she realized that she didn’t need anything more than¬†the latter: “I finished the therapy and disligated myself completely from it, realizing it was in fact Capoeira which brought the profound transformation I was looking for in my life.”

Her first class took place in Rio de Janiero, in 1993 when she was 28 years old.¬† The future contra-mestra trained under GCAP’s Mestre Neco, then became a student of Mestre Man√Ķel the next year, whose oldest student she remains to this day.¬† Cristina helped Mestre Man√Ķel¬†in the founding of¬†Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de Pastinha (GCAYP), and in 2003 she received her contra-mestra’s corda.¬† Today, she teaches children and runs the Rio de Janiero branch of GCAYP.

Now, here it is: an in-depth interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina, from Chamada de Mandinga in 1999.¬† I hesitated about putting it up at first, because a large part of the second half made me feel the same way I feel when popular female celebrities give feminism a bad name and take us back a few decades (you’ll see), and some parts seem to focus more on Mestre Man√Ķel than on Contra-Mestra Cristina, but ultimately still wanted the interview to be available to you guys.¬† Click on the link to read it!
Interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina [pdf]


Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Videos: Mestra Paulinha

29 02 2008

A while ago I wrote about Mestra Paulinha, co-founder and sociologist of Grupo Nzinga, but somehow left out videos of her playing.  The following angola videos feature her, and thank you to Steven for the links!

This is a really old video of Mestra Paulinha playing¬†Jo√£o Pequeno!¬† If you don’t want to wait through the introductory music, the actual playing starts at about 1:50.

This next video takes place in Costa Rica, with Mestra Paulinha playing capoeira in a roda with a FICA student.

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Video: Mestra Jararaca

13 02 2008

Here is a short clip of Mestra Jararaca playing, in an old video from 1997.  Thanks again to Shayna for the link!

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 8: Mestra Jararaca

13 02 2008

Mestra Jararaca, of Grupo Irm√£os G√™meos,¬†was the first mestra to come out of the Bahia capoeira angola scene.¬† Unfortunately, there is very little information about her available on the web, but thank you to Shayna M. for the one article I do have!¬† It was originally in French and I’ve translated it into English to post here.

October 2001 

Mestra Jararaca playing in the rodaThose who saw a serious child with a small smile playing in the rodas of Jo√£o Pequeno, in Santo Ant√īnio, never imagined that time would transform her into a master.¬† In truth, however, she is the first female mestre in capoeira angola in Bahia.¬† Valdelice Santos de Jesus, more often known as Mestra Jararaca, never saw herself becoming a capoeira master either, but¬†talent and destiny gave a helping hand to “the little girl who played like a man”.¬†

Today, the young woman of hardly 27 years¬†is preparing for a personal journey¬†and¬†takes care of her two sons (Luiz et Jos√© Carlos, 3 and 6 years respectively), in addition to participating in activities alongside Mestre Curio, student of the legendary Pastinha.¬† “I started¬†when I was¬†11 years old, hiding it from my father, who said that capoeira was something for boys,” remembers the mestra who, even while running the risk of being reprimanded, continued to frequent the roda with her older sister Ritinha, who is a student of Jo√£o Pequeno to this day.

To the question of how¬†she juggles family, teaching, and continuing to perfect her art, the young mestra smiles self-consciously, replying¬†that she never lacked determination in life, even¬†when her father interrupted one of her training sessions and forbade¬†his daughter¬†to continue them.¬† “It was in 1989, after my father died, that I returned to capoeira,” she said.¬†

During the period when she stayed far from rodas, Mestra Jararaca¬†came to know¬†another world and decided to educate herself.¬†¬†“I started¬†working very early, selling doughnuts, working as a nurse and as a cleaning lady.¬† One day in¬†one of the houses where I worked, I asked my boss—who was a¬†very respected saint-mother, known as¬†Ciandra M√£e—to read a newspaper article to me.¬† She told me then that those who didn’t know how to read were blind to the world.¬† I returned to my house,¬†and decided to no longer be¬†blind.” […]¬† Between courses at the Institut d’Education Isa√≠as Alves and work, Mestra Jararaca found time to play soccer with boys in the street of Santo Ant√īnio.

If capoeira hadn’t been there, who knows if soccer wouldn’t have had another valuable representative¬†equal to those of the past, masculinized generation?¬†¬†“My father said that I was capit√£o de areia¬†[captain of the arena] and that it wasn’t good for a young girl to live¬†freely with¬†guys, but I wasn’t worried about that,” declared the woman who,¬†when pregnant, never stopped participating in rodas.¬†

When she returned to capoeira, it wasn’t long before¬†Mestra Jararaca became a professor at Mestre Jo√£o Pequeno’s academy, working alongside great¬†mestres such as Curio and Moraes.¬† Potentially detrimental pride and jealousy were put to¬†a halt by arranging for the young capoeirista to train with Mestre Curio.¬† “I was already a professor, but when I entered my mestre’s academy, I needed to learn a new game,” she stated.¬†

It was this period that gave rise to¬†Valdelice’s evocative apelido, given by her new mentor.¬† According to Mestre Curi√≥, one simply needs to see¬†her playing capoeira to know why she is called Jararaca.¬† While training, the¬†young lady who moved like a cobra showed true distinction, eventually becoming a contra-mestra and, this past January, earning the title of mestra in a grand roda, as demanded by the angola tradition.

As for prejudice stemming from the fact she is a woman, Mestre Jararaca resolves that matter in the roda.¬† “I have no patience for people who think that being male, being strong, or having a bit of training makes them superior.¬† Capoeira is a school of each day, which lasts through all¬†life and serves men as well as¬†women,” concludes the first angola mestra from Brazil, who¬†holds in¬†honour the memory of the first female capoeiristas in Bahia.

-by Carmen Vasconcelos (translation by Joaninha)


Picture source:
Youtube – apologies for the low quality pixel count!

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Videos: Contra-Mestra Susy (Grupo Vadiac√£o, Capoeira Angola)

14 01 2008

There were too many to choose from!¬† I’ll put two up here, and they’re a little lengthy, but worth it.¬†

This first one¬†is Contra-Mestra Susy playing several of her students, and you can just feel the fun she’s having playing them, through the video.¬† (And props to the kid for his macaco, hehe.)¬† There are also some really interesting parts where you can almost (almost) forgive those people who mistake capoeira for¬†[purely] a dance. ūüėõ¬† Contra-Mestra Susy is the one in all white.

This second one has Contra-Mestra Susy playing someone more her level, and again,¬†they are obviously having fun¬†(another difference that’s starting to come up more between angola and regional to me; angola games seem to have a lot more playfulness at…well, play…than the average regional game).¬† Watch for a really cool¬†section near the end of the first half,¬†where it looks like they’re playing at intense regional speed, but with clearly angola movements.

And for those who still haven’t had enough, here’s a link to more!


Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 7: Contra-Mestra Susy

12 01 2008

I’m starting to see an interesting pattern emerge from¬†researching all these¬†female mestres and contra-mestres.¬† Very¬†few of them seem to¬†have based their lives on¬†capoeira alone, as it appears with many males mestres, but have expanded¬†and merged it¬†with other major aspects of their lives or livelihoods as well.¬†¬†Mestra Edna Lima took the physical, sports science aspect of capoeira regional and turned it into fitness or physical education programs.¬† Mestras Janja and Paulinha focused on the sociological aspect of capoeira angola and through that, publish examining articles while working for change and progress in¬†related social issues.¬† Now, we have Contra-Mestra Susy, whose life and career highlights the potential of capoeira’s dance aspect.

Contra-mestra Susy of Grupo Vadiacao and Academica JangadaContra-Mestra Susy became the first European female in capoeira angola to earn her rank’s belt, in 1992, and she puts the “dance” in the dance-fight-game. In addition to nineteen years of capoeira, sixteen of which were¬†with Berlin’s Mestre Rosalvo (the first angoleiro to arrive in Europe), she studies and practices breakdancing as well as Afro-Brazilian dances associated with capoeira. Contra-Mestra Susy, or Susanne Oesterreicher, also performed in the dance piece Grupo Oito by Ricardo de Paula, with whom she has been working since 2005, and who choreographed her debut solo performance, “Identity”.¬† Ricardo de Paula is known for his work in attempting to combine contemporary dance and “contact improvisation”, inspired by capoeira.

Contra-Mestra Susy organized the First International Capoeira Angola Convention in Europe, in 1993, followed by a series of international meetings¬†that hosted guests such as Mestres Jo√£o Grande, Jo√£o Pequeno, Cobra Mansa, and Ciro.¬†¬†She then founded the Academia Jangada with Mestre Rosalvo in 1997, Europe’s first capoeira angola academy, for which¬†she¬†coordinated the First International Convention for Afro-Brazilian Dance in 1998.

In 1999, Contra-Mestra Susy founded Grupo Vadia√ß√£o, and since then has also been teaching the children’s capoeira group in Academia Jangada. She now holds workshops throughout Europe, Brazil, and the United States, where she attended the Fourth International Women’s Conference at the invitation of Mestre Cobra Mansa, in Seattle, 2002.


Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 6: Mestra Paulinha

7 01 2008

Something interesting I noticed while researching Mestra Paulinha and Mestra Janja is that it was a lot easier to find information about recent or current things they had done/were doing, than it was to find things in the past that they had done (like a plain old biography!).¬† I found this really intriguing because¬†normally, for capoeira mestres/mestras, all you can find is their stock biography, plastered word-for-word all over the capoerista’s World Wide Web.¬† Furthermore, most of the information I did find was about projects or events they had done or were part of, rather than¬†accounts of¬†their capoeirista journeys leading up to them becoming¬†mestras and having their own group.¬†

I suspect this is connected to my last post about how capoeira (angola), at least for Mestras Paulinha and Janja, is inherently about bringing about change, and to say the least, they do more than just talk about how it is and actually show how it is.  I really admire how they have found a way to seamlessly merge career, academics, capoeira, and working for change all into one!

Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga CapoeiraMestra Paulinha, like Mestra Janja, is a veritable force to be reckoned with in the fields of social issues, academia, and (of course) capoeira. Last year marked her 25th in capoeira angola, and in that time she: earned a master’s and doctorate degree in Sociology (from the University of Bahia and University of S√£o Paulo, respectively); became a distinguished professor at the University of Bahia; gave lectures on various topics in various settings; published scholarly articles; and worked with Mestra Janja to focus attention on (anti-)racism, youth, higher education, identity, black culture, and women in capoeira.

Mestra Paulinha began training capoeira near the start of the 1980s, in GCAP (Grupo Capoeira Angola de Pelourinho), also with Mestres Moraes, Jo√£o Grande, and Cobra Mansa. She became a contra-mestra in 1990 and moved to S√£o Paulo in 1998, where she became a coordinator of INCAB (Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola) along with Mestra Janja and Mestre Poloca. In 2002, Mestra Paulinha moved to Salvador, and leads a core group of Grupo Nzinga Capoeira there. She is the grupo’s designated sociologist, and has maintained constant dialogue with other capoeira angola groups in order to further INCAB’s goals.

Editor’s note: INCAB is not, as was implied in Mestra Janja’s write-up, the same as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira. INCAB is a larger, umbrella organization that encompasses several smaller associations, such as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira and the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra.

Sources: (with Google translation) (with Google translation)

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra


Can Capoeira Change the World? Part 2

6 01 2008

Grupo Nzinga Capoeira AngolaIt has been all along, right under our noses—just not our regional ones!

From FICA Archives: Celebrating 25 Years of M. Paulinha:

M Paulinha writes about the growth of Capoeira Angola as an ever-widening vehicle for marginalized social expressions following efforts by the Brazilian state to turn capoeira into a ‚Äúnational sport‚ÄĚ. She traces Capoeira Angola‚Äôs growth as part of the black movement, as a growing space for women (in large part due to the work of Paulinha and Janja themselves), and most recently, as a zone of international and cultural understanding. Here is a bit:

In the beginning of the 1980s, the creation of the Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho (GCAP) in Rio de Janeiro and later in Bahia marked a significant change in the situation. Founded by Mestre Pedro Moraes Trinidade (Mestre Moraes), GCAP implemented a series of actions promoting the re-valorization of Capoeira Angola and the recognition of the importance of old and famous mestres, such as Mestre Pastinha himself. With an ideology that affirmed capoeira’s African roots and denounced the injustices suffered by so many capoeiristas and Afro-descendents, this group was the precursor of a movement that became wide and diverse.

Through the realization of events in homage to Mestre Pastinha, GCAP managed to reunite old practitioners of Capoeira Angola and attract new admirers and people interested in learning the traditional game. The format of these events was innovative because it created bridges between the practitioners of Capoeira Angola and other segments of society such as: religious leaders, especially those linked to the Candombl√©s of Angola; anti-racist organizations of the ‚Äúblack movement‚ÄĚ; organizations involved with other forms of black culture; intellectuals and scholars; and governmental organizations, especially in the cultural area. In some years, these events gained larger proportions, assuming a national and international character, and began to be held by other nascent groups of Capoeira Angola, mainly during the 1990s. Such events were established as an important part of a regular calendar activities that helped to construct the new community of ‚Äúangoleiros‚ÄĚ.

One important aspect of the ideology and actions implemented by the Capoeira Angola groups created in this period involves the denunciation of racism in Brazil. The events promoted in memory of Mestre Pastinha, carried out on the date of his death (November 13th), soon became part of the agenda of commemorations and reflections of the National Day of Black Consciousness (November 20th). More than a coincidence of dates, this approximation reveals a process of growing politicization in the universe of Capoeira Angola, synchronized with the general trend in the black cultural scene in Bahia…

… This community became very heterogeneous ‚Äď including people of various ethnic and racial origins, social classes, nationalities, genders, ages, and sexual orientations- and this has been the backdrop for the construction of the angoleiro‚Äôs identity. Therefore, affirming oneself as an ‚Äúangoleiro(a)‚ÄĚ today implies dealing with diversity, rejecting any ideal of purity and homogeneity.

I think I joined the wrong style…!¬† (Kidding, but it’s food for thought.)

Follow-up to come—eventually.¬† I was doing research for¬†a¬†write-up on Mestra Paulinha and¬†couldn’t¬†just sit on this!

Click here to read “Can Capoeira Change the World?” (Part 1)

Video: Grupo Nzinga and Mestra Janja

3 01 2008

Following yesterday’s post, this is a great video from Grupo Nzinga, and for me it was a fascinating glimpse into the world of capoeira angola, which I’d never really fully realized before was so apart and different from the world of capoeira regional.¬† It was really interesting doing the research on Mestra Janja yesterday as well, and I definitely hope to learn more about capoeira angola as this goes on.¬† Make sure you don’t miss the footage of Mestra Janja conducting the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra in the last part!

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra


Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 5: Mestra Janja

3 01 2008

I almost made a huge oversight in this series–so far all of the mestras or¬†contra-mestras¬†featured have been players of capoeira¬†regional, but of course there are angoleira mestras as well, and they are amazing!¬†¬†Apologies to any angola capoeiristas¬†who read this blog, and much thanks to Shayna McHugh of¬†Capoeira Connection and Bahia-Capoeira Blog for¬†bringing¬†several angola mestras¬†to my attention!¬†

Today I want to tell you about Mestra Janja, who has done/is doing¬†so much inside and outside of capoeira that I hardly knew what to talk about first.¬† And she’s not the only one, so please look out for following posts in this ongoing series!

Mestra JanjaMestra Janja, or Rosang√™la de Ara√ļjo Costa, is a well-known and much esteemed mestra in the world of capoeira angola. A former student of renowned Mestres Jo√£o Grande, Moraes, and Cobra Mansa, she began training in Salvador during the early 80s. In 1995, Mestra Janja founded the Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola e Tradi√ß√Ķes Educativas Banto (Grupo Nzinga de Capoeira Angola), along with Mestra Paulinha and Mestre Poloca. Instituto Nzinga, an NGO based in S√£o Paulo and named after a 16th century African queen, works towards an anti-racism and anti-sexism mission statement beyond the preservation of capoeira angola and its traditions.

Mestra Janja plays a major role in social issues related to capoeira. She has coordinated projects such as affirmative action for black students’ entrance into university, and leads the Network of Women Angoleira (RAM). In addition, Mestra Janja has helped to organize events such as last year’s VI Congresso Badau√™ of Women Capoeiristas, for which she also taught workshops and organized an international conference in Atlanta, USA. Last year, celebrations were held in Salvador to commemorate Mestra Janja’s 25th year in capoeira angola.

Beyond her superlative capoeira skills and extensive social work, Mestra Janja is known for being a top scholar in¬†the field. She completed a master’s and doctorate’s degree in Capoeira Angola at the Federal University of S√£o Paulo, and graduated from the Federal University of Bahia with a degree in History. A university professor and published scholar, Mestra Janja is Grupo Nzinga’s historian and co-publisher of Real D’Angola magazine. She also conducts the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra, which performs pieces that create links between capoeira and other types of Afro-Brazilian music, such as jongo, tambo-de-crioula, and bumba-meu-boi.

Sources: (with Google translation) (with Google translation) (with Google translation) (with Google translation)

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra